A Week In The Life” is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.
The subject of today’s “A Week In The Life” is a POS agent under PayCentre. She talks to us about quitting her draining 9-5 as a digital marketer and miraculously stumbling on a tweet about agent banking that changed her life.
I’ve been home from work for a few hours now, and I’m trying to catch up on my unfinished tasks. A typical workday starts at 8:00 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. I have a sales assistant but I go to the physical shop if I need to appease a customer, like today. Thankfully, the customer was reasonable, so I left almost as quickly as I got there.
I run the operations aspect of a POS business. It’s my job to ensure that the business runs smoothly, and that the books are balanced at the end of every workday. I have an excel sheet that I update every day with my outflow, inflow and third party expenses.
The job is not that physically tasking. It’s basically giving money and swiping an ATM card. What makes the job difficult are the little stressors attached to it like wrong debit, no service, no cash to withdraw from the bank or finding diligent staff; someone who’ll take the job as seriously as I do. A lot of these hiccups are why I sometimes still have to go in myself.
A perfect example was last week: I told my sales assistant to withdraw money before opening the shop but she didn’t listen. Around midday, she ran out of money and needed to withdraw cash from the bank. I had to sit in for her. I was so pissed because I kept reminding her to sort the money before starting the day. After an hour and thirty minutes of telling customers that there was no cash on the ground, she called to tell me that the bank had no network.
I lost my mind.
That meant I had to turn back more people and risked looking like an unserious business owner. The tragedy is that it’s on the days we don’t have cash on the ground that many people come to do transactions with huge profit margins.
It can be frustrating because when I go to the shop, I end up piling my tasks, such as tracking cash flow and bank charges. This means that I’ll end up working into the night so that I can finish my daily report.
I’m glad I didn’t spend a lot of time in the shop today. It means that I can still finish my report in time. Then I can do other things like reading or scrolling through Twitter. It’s easy for a job to feel like a lot is going on so you don’t have any time to relax, but there must be a balance.
Before I attack my unfinished tasks, I’m going to take a nap. I need to make sure that I approach the numbers with well-rested eyes.
When I resumed work today, I didn’t know I’d spend half of it reminiscing.
I remember wanting to start a hair business after quitting my digital marketing job last year, in the middle of the pandemic. I remember also thinking that a service business would perform better than a luxury business given the state of the economy.
I’d wake up every morning and scroll through Quora, Reddit and Twitter for ideas. One day I came across a tweet where a JJC was complaining about long ATM queues at the bank. Interestingly, a lot of the replies kept recommending that the person should use a POS agent. In the comment section, people gave testimonies about how efficient and time saving the POS service was.
The person who made the tweet took their advice, went to a POS agent and got cash in under five minutes. He couldn’t stop talking about how good the service was. This quipped my interest.
The irony is that up until that point I had never used a POS agent before. I had always been sceptical about the safety of these agents. Sometimes, I’d even warn my siblings about using them. But at that point, I was unemployed, so the business seemed very attractive.
A couple of calls to friends and family, a visit to 15 banks asking for POS and a technical partner later, the business was born. It’s funny how the banks put me on a six-month waitlist for POS during my research, while the POS agents sold their devices at prices beyond my budget. The only people whose POS I could afford — at ₦14,000 — was PayCentre’s. And it was love at first sight because of how perfect the deal was. [Editor’s note: PayCentre told Zikoko that the POS devices are free and the ₦14,000 is for registration and logistics.]
It’s been four months since my first contact with PayCentre. In that time, I’ve parted ways with my technical partner [an accountant], I’ve learnt to manage my books myself, and I’m learning every day on the job. God has been faithful.
Today was tough. My total profit after removing charges was ₦2,000. Compared to my daily average profit of ₦3,000 – ₦3,500 after charges, and ₦5,000 on good days, It was terrible. I know these numbers because of my excel sheet, which gives me an overview of the business. I guess being a graduate has its perks.
I spent all day trying to understand why people were not coming. Usually, by now, women go to the market, so they need money. Men also socialise with friends and that also requires money. So it’s baffling why turnout was bad today.
Although a lot of customers asked if we were open, they didn’t show. I’m just hoping that this is not a pattern that repeats itself.
I take solace in the fact that tomorrow is another day to try again.
Today was a regular day. However, something stood out to me during the day — I realised that this job has made me picky, and I can no longer work for peanuts again. If I didn’t have this POS job, I might have been desperate to take just any job on the market. But now, I know better.
I’m thinking of opening at least five shops because one shop can’t give me the type of money I’m looking for. But whenever I think of how tough it is to reconcile the books for just one shop, I reduce my dreams to three shops. If I eventually open five shops, I’ll employ an accountant to look at the books.
It’s humbling when I think that a tweet changed my life. I now make enough money to buy myself nice things and pay my bills. And I can’t wait to do even more nice things for myself.
It’s even true, I owe myself a nice dinner at a four or five-star restaurant. Let me call my sister to see if that one is interested.
When I woke up by 7 a.m. this morning, I told myself: “You’re now enjoying.” In the past, I’d have to wake up as early as 4:00 a.m. so I can leave the house by 5:30 a.m. to beat traffic. I’d also get home around 10, 11 p.m. at the end of the day.
On weekends, I’d spend my time doing laundry and house chores.
This meant I was quickly exhausted mentally, emotionally and psychologically. I wasn’t sleeping well. I wasn’t eating well. Sometimes I wouldn’t have enough time to make my hair so I’d wear wigs for months.
Taking a break from the work environment to run this POS business means I can now afford to wake up by seven instead of four. And because I have a salesgirl, I can work from home and I only need to go in to supervise or cover for her.
Because I was a digital marketer at my old job, it also means I’m no longer worrying about conversions and sales targets. Although I have mental targets for my business, I’m still not stressed. I’ve been able to rest well. I’ve also been able to take on side gigs as a digital marketer in addition to my POS business.
I’m slowly approaching the point where I can now make two to three times my old monthly salary in a month.
It’s wild that all of this started on February 24 this year. Do you know what makes me happy? I’ve not even scratched the surface of how much I have the potential to earn in a month. I might not be where I want, but I’m better than where I used to be.
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